MinDA to assess impact of quarantine on power industry

More and more of Mindanao’s power sources now come from coal-fired plants – like the 540MW GNPower in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte photographed on 2 March 2018 – triggering concern among officials and residents as renewable energy sources, like hydro, are aging and need rehabilitation. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 May) – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will assess the impact of the enhanced community quarantine enforced by local government units to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease on the power sector.

MinDA assistant secretary Romeo Montenegro said in a statement Thursday that the agency would examine how Mindanao’s power industry is “keeping up with the current situation, noting the island’s distinct power structure which is slightly different from the interconnected network of Visayas and Luzon.”

“Part of the monitoring currently being undertaken by MinDA includes possible impact of the current situation to the power sector in Mindanao,” he said.

He noted that unlike in Luzon power distribution in Mindanao, particularly in rural areas, is through electric cooperatives.

He added the MinDA, which heads the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee, needs to know the impact of the implementation of the ECQ to determine the measures needed to support the power industry in this time of crisis.

Created through Executive Order 81, the MPMC is composed of the Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, National Electrification Administration, National Power Corporation, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation, Mindanao Electric Power Alliance and Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives as members.

Montenegro said MinDA has seen a reduction of power demand by around 35 percent in urban centers following the implementation of lockdown and suspension of operations of major establishments and industries.

But he added the estimated reduction does not reflect real demand for power in the provinces in Mindanao whose consumers are mostly served by the electric cooperatives.

“Households account for majority of load users’ profiles in most areas served by electric cooperatives, and with the current stay at home mode there’s a possibility for consumption uptick especially with extended use of electric-powered household items such as cooking appliances, airconditioning system, home entertainment equipment and other electronic gadgets being used to connect with others,” he said.

He said MinDA chair Emmanuel Piñol has submitted a proposal to the United States Agency for International Development seeking its assistance in carrying out the impact study.

Several consumers in some areas in Cotabato province complained about the significant increases in their electricity bills from Cotabato Electric Cooperative (COTELCO)-PPALMA.

In a letter addressed to COTELCO-PPALMA general manager Engr. Felix C. Canja dated May 6, Pigcawayan Mayor Jean Dino D. Roquero said his office had received complaints from power consumers regarding “significant increase in their consumption or bills.”

In a radio interview over Radyo Bandera MyFM Midsayap on Wednesay, Canja explained that the increase in bills could have been caused by the increase in electricity consumption of the households since many of them stayed inside their homes 24/7 during the ECQ period.

He said this means higher power consumption for household appliances.

He added the actual meter reading was only done for the month of April where COTELCO-PPALMA saw a sudden spike in the consumption by households for almost two months since March.

To lessen the burden, Canja assured consumers that they may pay in four installments without surcharge or penalty if they could not do one-time payment.

But Cynthia Monica Badian, who resides in Midsayap, a neighboring town of Pigcawayan, complained that their electricity bill for the month of April had nearly doubled although there was no significant increase in their use of electricity.

“When we paid our bill, we were told that we would have to pay the penalty if we fail to pay for our bill in March,” she said.

Midsayap has been under general community quarantine since May 1 after the lifting of ECQ, enforced from March 18 to April 30. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)